Students from across the Northwest Territories lived the college lifestyle last week to sample all that Aurora College’s Thebacha Campus has to offer.
The second annual NWT Youth Symposium in Fort Smith drew 42 students from Gameti, Yellowknife, Fort McPherson, Deline, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk and Aklavik. From June 11-14, Grades 10 and 11 students were treated to college life – from sleeping in dorms, to taking classes, to experiencing the recreational and social activities in town.
“(The purpose) is to expose the students to the college and the variety of services the college provides to the students, the support we have in the community, which is why we wanted to have the rec centre evening activities – to highlight the different kinds of activities the community has to offer,” Sharon Allen, coordinator for NWT Youth Symposium, told The Journal.
After getting settled and feasting on barbecue cuisine the first day, students heard from NASA astronaut and environmental photographer Roberta Bondar, who stressed the importance of education while keeping her message light and humourous. She regaled the gathered students, chaperones and instructors with stories of her time as an astronaut – something she said would not have been possible without her education.
Over the following two days, the students put their noses to the proverbial grindstone in the college’s various classes, including environment and natural resources technology, carpentry, social work, business and an introduction to philosophy and science.
“It was really good. A lot of kids had so many good things to say,” Allen said.
Instructors and college staff spoke about the college and what is available. Apprenticeship carpentry instructor Lawrence Cheezie gave a sobering keynote speech on June 13 about the trials and tribulations of his struggle with alcoholism and his experiences in residential school. Cheezie, who has taught at the school since 2008, told The Journal the students needed to hear a story from the heart to know they could overcome their challenges.
“Celebrate what’s good in life,” Cheezie told the students. “Don’t dwell on the negative part of life you create in your own mind.”
Development studies instructor Brian O’Hagen introduced many of the students to philosophy and science.
“At college and university, you’re going to encounter a number of bewildering ideas,” O’Hagen told one group of students.
Colten Gruben, a Grade 10 student from Tuktoyaktuk, told The Journal while painting a birdhouse that he is thinking about pursuing a career in carpentry.
“I like doing handiwork. I like working hands-on,” Gruben said.
The symposium was not all work and no play. Students participated in a campus-wide scavenger hunt, learned to kayak in the town pool, got an introduction to music from local rockers Brandon Kikoak and Jamie Chabun of State of the Art, engaged in a paintball war, and played Dene handgames.
Allen said she hopes future symposiums will expand upon what was offered.
“In a future symposium, I really hope that culture can be included. That would be a wonderful aspect of it,” Allen said, adding that the symposium was a great success and everyone had fun.